The Kaduna State Tennis Association has decided to bring back the Kaduna Clay Court Tournament fully, and the first stop was the National Junior Tennis Championship, which held a couple weeks ago. It started on Monday, 23rd of November 2020 and ran through the 29th.
“If you want to watch tennis at its best, its on clay,” the tournament director, Coach Ubale Mohammed boasted. “And if you want to learn very good techniques, its also on clay.” There is, of course, no better time to learn good techniques than at the Junior stage.
The Clay Court event, which started as a Senior National Tournament, was first staged in 1975, and up until 1979, the tournament remained national at the Senior stage. The Junior National, however held for the first time in 1978, running alongside the Seniors which was already four years in, at the time.
From 1980 to around 1985, the Senior tournament went back and forth from being a national tournament to being an ATP Tournament. For instance, between 1980 – 1981 it was an ATP tournament attracting some of the best players in the world, only to return to being national in 1982 and 1984, and after a while, the tournament completely went away.
The 11th edition of the Junior National Tournament is the first to hold in more than a decade. “Sponsorship caused everything to collapse,” Coach Mohammed revealed when asked about why the tournament stopped for all these years.
“Then we used to have the senior international Kaduna Clay Court that was an ATP tournament. World class players like former world number 1, Thomas Muster and other Nigerian players [like] Nduka Odizor, Sadiq Abdullahi and David Imonitie all played in the senior ATP tournament. The junior Kaduna Clay Court was a national tournament while the senior was an international tournament.”
After over a decade of hibernation, the tournament finally came back, and is hopefully here to stay, as it has received sponsorship from Anchor Dataware Solutions and a co-sign from the Kaduna State Governor, His Excellency Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, who is interested in the sport and has plans to renovate the club.
“Now we have an MOU with Anchor Dataware Solutions to run it for the next 5 years, so it has come to stay,” the Coach explained. “Subsequently we are going to be having other tournaments because the Governor of Kaduna State, His Excellency Mallam Nasir el-Rufai is so much interested in Tennis because he used to come here in the 80s to watch the ATP tournaments. Firstly, he plans to renovate the whole club to international standards.”
“Kaduna is gradually coming back to tennis like we used to do. Now we are starting with the grassroots program, you can see from the entries, [although] this is the first time after many years, we are having a large turnout.” Over 100 players from 18 states competed at the just-concluded Junior National tournament. According to him, it was beyond the organizers’ expectations.
“We were even planning to add the 10 & Under and 12 & Under, but because of the Coronavirus Pandemic we were advised to do only 14 and 16, but next year by God’s grace we will have those other categories.”
Given the MOU with Anchor Dataware Solutions and the support from the Governor of Kaduna State, the organizers are also looking forward to effectively transform the Junior tournament into a National Tournament. That transformation, we’ve gathered, could come as early as next year.
The Junior National Tournament ended on 29th of November, after a week-long action in Kaduna that saw players from different states of the country competing for the title, in the four categories (Boys 14, Girls 14, Boys 16 and Girls 16), that held this year.